The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill, published earlier this week, appears to confirm the Scottish Government’s intention to re-introduce non-domestic rates for shoots in Scotland.
This could mean that approximately 70 per cent of the land of Scotland currently influenced by shooting will lose its relief from this taxation, introduced in 1995.
The tax, which is planned to be re-introduced in April 2017, could affect the viability of many of Scotland’s small rural businesses, as well as having an impact on employment and associated conservation management, not to mention rural tourism.
The original purpose of the Scottish Government was to raise £10 million a year from sporting rates in order to fund further community land ownership. However, the Financial Memorandum on the Bill estimates this figure could be closer to £4 million, possibly less after exemption under the Small Business Bonus Scheme. Other key land management activities – such as farming and forestry – will continue to benefit from relief from non-domestic rates.
In addition to the re-introduction of non-domestic rates, the Bill also contains new powers with respect to deer management planning, and strengthening of the powers that allow government to insist upon deer management – leaving little room for manoeuvre.
Deer stalking and shooting currently contribute about £200 million to Scotland’s rural economy every year – an important input to remote areas, especially in the autumn and winter months when other activities have declined.
BASC Scotland director Dr Colin Sheddon said: “Country sports tourism is a key economic driver in rural Scotland and it would be regrettable if the reintroduction of non-domestic rates was to disadvantage Scotland as a world-class destination.”
He continued: “We have already asked the Minister to undertake research and a comprehensive impact assessment prior to proceeding with the reintroduction of sporting rates and note that while there is an estimate of annual liability of £4 million there is no estimate on the costs to Local Authorities to collect this income.”
Alan Balfour, chairman of BASC’s Scottish Committee, said: “The economic and environmental significance of shooting and stalking in Scotland cannot be ignored. Scotland is often the destination of choice for shooters visiting from elsewhere in the UK and from abroad. The reintroduction of business rates, after they were scrapped in 1995, would be a step backwards.”